So, Carol Anne Duffy. I don’t know much of her stuff, and what I know of it, I don’t much like.

Therefore I am not personally impressed with her being chosen as Laureate. I’m prepared to be convinced, if anyone has any of her stuff they wish to post up here/lend to me/buy for me (not really, you’re none of you much richer than me…).

Furthermore I feel that as a feminist woman (and one who is proud to give herself that label) I should be more pleased that a woman has finally been made Laureate. I’m not about to celebrate tokenism though, to be honest; and I’m not about to start dancing in the streets because they have appointed a woman, symbol or not. Tokenism could well be the thing, of course, becuase the post of Laureate is a very ambassadorial, tokenistic role, so therefore who better than a strong gay woman (and, pshaw, why isn’t she black as well?). I don’t think that she’s been appointed just to make some kind of PR statement, and I hope that’s not the case, at least not for any other reason than that she is a pretty popular poet, who is easy to understand, and who speaks to the masses. Anyway, I’m not about to celebrate the fact that a woman has finally been given this post, I want to be able to celebrate because a good poet who really deserved this recognition got this post, and I’m not saying that Carol Anne Duffy isn’t that poet, I am yet to be convinced.

Personally I think there are other poets out there who wrench a far more real emotional reaction out of me, punch me in the solar plexus and, well, who I prefer, frankly, who are equally as accessible without being, as I remember, trite. But like I say, ‘as I remember’: I can’t really remember much about her poetry except that I didn’t like it at the time, and who knows what I might think now.

Anyway, I don’t think this is specifically any kind of feminist ‘victory’, because it isn’t about women over men, or men over women, it should be about Is The Person Appointed The Right Person For The Job Regardless Of Anything But Their Ability To Do The Job.

Anyway, there’s my rather confused tuppen’orth; what do you think? Comments most definitely welcome (despite the fact that I should definitely be revising…)…



Filed under Happenings, Life, Politics, Society, Women

9 responses to “Laureate

  1. I’d still have Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate if I had a choice. He may well be dead but his poems still stick in the mind even though it’s been years since I studied him – he only became Laureate because Philip Larkin refused. I thought Andrew Motion’s surname fitted the part really well although it seems it’s not all sunshine when it came to him being Laureate..

    Looking back at some of the previous Laureates there are quite a few high brow names; Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, John Betjemen and Geoffrey Chaucer… I must admit Duffy doesn’t strike me as in the same league as any of those mentioned..

    Incidentally she’s the first Scot Laureate also. 🙂

  2. ruethewhirl

    If Elizabeth Barret Browing had been slightly less controversial, i learnt recently, then she would have been Poet Laureate before or instead of Tennyson. I leave it to you to decide whether we’ve been robbed or spared.

    incidentally, your comment ‘(and, pshaw, why isn’t she black as well?)’ made me think of a moment in Yes Minister: ‘Well, actually Minister, according to the latest government directives, the ideal voter is a black Welsh lesbian with one leg’

  3. standingonthebrink

    I’d still have Ted Hughes as Laureate too, given the choice (and in any other given context in which I could have him, but that’s by the bye); the man was absolutely amazing; words cannot do justice. Except maybe his.

    That’s interesting about EBB – I don’t know her stuff either; I’ll look her out. And CAD. And I should really know more of Motion’s stuff. Hell, I need to know more poetry in general.

    And I laughed out loud and terrifyingly at that Yes Minister quote. Incidentally ahve you seen ‘In The Loop’ yet? I really want to…

  4. Is it tokenism? BBC Magazine Monitor tells me that the Poet Laureates of the USA and New Zealand are also women.

  5. standingonthebrink

    Without a sovereign, how come they have Poets Laureate?!

    Also, I may be missing the point here: in what sense does the fact that the US and NZ have female Laureates make our having a female Laureate potentially less tokenistic?

    I’m not sure that I think it is tokenism, if only becuase I hope as a society that we’re past that now… .

  6. C

    Read ‘Rapture’ by Duffy first, then comment. Is my reaction to the people who say she’s neither as memorable as nor as powerful/’good’ as poets like Hughes, Wordsworth etc. The Laureateship is what enables such poets to become the giants of literature they do, in many ways, and personally I feel that Duffy is just as much entitled to that rank as any of the other poets who’ve held it before her. She has… something. A quality which not many have, of saying something you’ve always thought, but in more beautiful words than you can imagine. Like Neruda, but in English. Like Plath, but less aggressive. And yet, something else as well. There’s a beauty and simplicity in her writing which I can only ever try and fail to emulate, but I am over the moon about this. No-one else deserves it quite as much, I feel.


  7. standingonthebrink

    Do you have a copy of it? I’d like to check it out. If you notice I’ve been saying all along that I know that I didn’t like much of the stuff of hers that I’ve read, but that that doesn’t say much becuase i haven’t read much of ehr stuff, so I’d like to know more.


  8. @ C – matter of opinion isn’t it 🙂 of course, she may not be in the same league now but like you said this may make her a “giant” of the poetry world. Time will tell..

  9. standingonthebrink

    I’m not sure that being Laureate has any noticeable effect on the standard of hte poetry people write. Sure, it may make them a little more famous, but not really; personally I think that good poets like Hughes and Wordsworth would have got the recognition they did because of how good they were as poets, not because the monarch of the time happened to be sending them hundreds of bottles of sherry and getting them to write poems about obscure royal weddings…

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